To provide a safe, open space for participants to understand the concepts of and experience empathy.
Several shoes…In each shoe place an index card with one of each of the following words written on the front: Poor, Rich, Boy, Girl, Homeless, Physically Disabled, Old, Young, Sick, From a Different Country, Different Religion, Different Ethnicity, Different Political Beliefs.
Poster board with the words, “Stop Breathe Listen Respond” on it.
Getting on Board (Note anything in italics is to be said out loud by facilitator.)
Today we’re going to talk about empathy.
What does empathy mean to you?
(Empathy is not always a household name for kids, so you may want to offer a definition of your own to get them talking: “When I think of ‘empathy,’ I think of stepping into another person’s shoes, and working to understand a situation from their perspective. And the second part of empathy is about how you respond: what can you say and do to meet their needs?”)
Give me some examples when someone is demonstrating empathy?
Wait for the girls to give a few answers.
Those are all great examples.
Now we are going to do a few activities that demonstrate the power of empathy.
Each person will get a single “shoe.” Ask them to walk around the room for about a minute, thinking about how this person (label on the index card) might feel, and what their life is like.
After one to two minutes, have each person switch shoes with someone else. Repeat this 3 times so that each participant has had 3 different shoes.
Processing Activity One
Bring the participants back into a circle. Going around the circle, have each person share his or her thoughts on their last shoe. If another person had that same shoe at some point, and would like to share their thoughts, encourage them to do so.
It’s wonderful that you’ve all been able to understand what it’s like to be in other person’s shoes.
Can we always be sure that we know how other people feel?
What might we do to be sure we understand what they are feeling?
Is there a particular group that we’ve talked about today that you’ve had personal experience with? Tell us about it!
Today we are going to learn a new method that will help develop some of our empathy skills.
Have the kids get into pairs. To do this in a fun manner, call out two body parts such as “head to elbow.” Each child must find a partner and one child put his head to the other person’s elbow. Do this several times. Knee to Knee; foot to knee, shoulder to elbow. After you’ve done this four to five times, the students will be in their pairs for the next activity.
Today we are going to learn a method called “SBLR.” SLBR actually stands for Stop, Breathe, Listen, Respond.
Being empathic requires us to be really present “with someone” when they are in a time of need. This means we aren’t distracted by other things and we really slow down to listen to them. That’s where SBLR comes in.
Stop…means we stop what we are doing (if we can) when our friend has something they want to share with us that may be upsetting or that they want to talk about. This means we don’t text or listen to music or stay on the computer.
Breathe…means that we slow down, find a place to be quiet with our friend and really concentrate on being with them. We may turn off our computers or move to a spot away from our friends so we can hear them.
Listen…means that we allow our friend to share whatever is on their mind. Sometimes we want to give advice or try to fix their problem for them, but what is most helpful when we are in the “listening” phase is to really just listen. You might say something like “tell me more” to get your friend to really talk a lot about whatever is upsetting them.
Respond…means we then respond in a kind and compassionate way. One great question to ask is: “How do you feel about what is going on?” or “What can I do to help you? Or “What do you think you should do?”
So let’s practice this. In your pairs, I want one of you to share, with the other person, something that has upset you (now or maybe in the past.) Let’s practice Stop, Breathe, Listen and Respond.
Give the pairs plenty of time to share their situations.
Okay…now let’s switch people. If you were sharing before, now be the listener.
Give the group plenty of time to share. When they are done have them come back into a circle.
Can anybody tell me what just happened?
How did you feel doing this activity?
What would you do differently?
Let’s go around the circle and each person share what they believe the other person might have been feeling about what was upsetting them.
Why do you think empathy is important to being a good leader?
Why do you think empathy is important to being an effective parent?
What do you like about environments/spaces where empathy is part of the way people are?
How are you feeling right now?